Next stop Strasbourg

Torture in Ukraine can be considered a legitimate means of gaining a confession if one considers the judgment handed down on this week by the Supreme Court in the case of Motsny and Nechyporuk

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union called on people to follow this disturbing and unprecedented case. Two men – Oleksandr Motsny and Ivan Nechyporuk – were identified as suspects by the victim of an attack whose mother was killed trying to protect him.  It was not an eyewitness identification – the victim simply said that it might have been the two because of their height and build. 

The police did the rest.  The main evidence as such was the men’s confessions.  We have reported Ivan Nechyporuk’s father’s account of how this confession was extracted from his son.  He asserts that when they tried to beat a confession out of Ivan with no success, they brought in his heavily pregnant wife, and threatened to torture her.

The police, in fact, ended up with five confessions. During the court hearing, a representative of the Prosecutor General’s office asserted that the five confessions demonstrated the growing competition of the police officers who questioned the men.  They get better and better is presumably the idea. Looking at the material of the case, one does however get the impression that it was less their skill in interrogation, as the means of torture that changed. Some of the methods described could surely compete with those used during the Spanish Inquisition.

The Khmelnytsky Region Inter-District Court acquitted the men on the grounds that the confessions given by Ivan Nechyporuk and Oleksandr Motsny had not been voluntary.

This verdict was appealed, and the Ternopil Regional Court of Appeal convicted the two men of murder, effectively on the basis of those confessions.

The two defendants described the torture that they had been subjected during the Supreme Court hearing, as well as certain other irregularities, such as the fact that no protocol at all was taken of the court hearing in the Court of Appeal.

Yet the Supreme Court chose not to consider this and upheld the convictions and 15-year sentences.

It now remains for the European Court of Human Rights to consider whether 5 confessions are credible proof of the crime or whether a clear violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the prohibition of torture was involved.  Since this Convention is binding upon Ukraine, the Supreme Court’s judgment may well not be the end of the story.


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